Lots of death, sex and one huge cliffhanger in this insanely good end to an uneven season.
I can't think of an episode in recent memory that packed so much goodness into one hour. Perhaps it was the similarily paced finale to Season 2. So let's get right into it.
I'll start with Sookie, because "And When I Die," despite the Marnie-possessing-Lafayette situation, was really a showcase for Anna Paquin.
Sookie went through the wringer here: dealing with the post-Marnie aftermath, choosing between Bill and Eric (finally!) while being pursued by Alcide, almost getting murdered (more on this later) and having a heartbreaking visit from Gran.
Yes, Gran. Didn't expect a Gran cameo, did you? Me either. Also didn't expect Gran to raise from the dead and force her hand down Lafayette's throat to expel Marnie.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first half of this episode was devoted to Lafayette being possessed by Marnie. Let's call him Lafanie. Or Marnette? I'll stick with Marnette. So Marnette is having a casual breakfast with Jesus. You know, paired with a "let's stop getting involved with dark magic" talk. Too late! Marnette stabs Jesus in the hand, reveals himself as Marnie, ties Jesus up and orders him to transfer his magic to him.
After awhile of trying to convince Marnie to do the right thing and leave Lafayette (shockingly, this doesn't work), he eventually relents, summons the demons of Mexico and Marnette stabs him in the heart and licks the knife. Death count: one Jesus! Yes, "True Blood" got rid of one of its most benevolent characters.
Marnette moves fast. He kills some King Bill guards, ties naked Bill and Eric to a stake and prepares to sacrifice them to witches ... or something. Thankfully, Sookie, Tara and Holly arrive on the scene to chant together and spread salt and ... summon the dead to get Marnie to take them to their side.
After Gran reaches into Lafayette and takes Marnie out, it's up to Antonia to convince her to end the madness. "All creatures have their purpose, even vampires," Antonia tells her. "You will be at peace."
Convinced! Marnie cries about the whole dying thing. "This f---ing sucks," she says.
"Change is hard," is Antonia's hilariously understated response.
Before they go back to the dead, Sookie can't resist chatting with Gran (who, by the way, wasn't too happy to see her). "I'm lost without you," Sookie says to Gran.
"The answer is where it always is -- in your heart," was Gran's vague response.
Just when I thought this episode was heading downhill, we get some much-needed comedy. As the women tend to Lafayette, the burnt Eric speaks up.
"Excuse me, we're getting a little crispy here," Eric quips.
This is the "True Blood" I missed for the season: every character getting some great plots and lines, a mix of blood and humor, some heart and some sadness and some laughter.
And it just kept getting better. Here's a rundown of how the season end impacted each character.
Bill/Eric/Sookie: The boring who-will-she choose subplot this season was brought to a tidy, believable end in about 15 minutes. Feasting on her blood after almost burning at the stake (and wearing matching robes!), Eric and Bill look longingly at Sookie. Clearly, she realizes it's time for her to make a decision.
For a moment, it looks as though she's going for Bill. She forgives him for his earlier betrayal, says she'll always love him, etc. Then she goes to Eric, confesses her love for him, too.
But in the end, she decides to be alone (for the moment). "There's only one way I see this ending. It's me walking away from neither of us. It's the hardest decision I've ever had to make."
But the right one. No one would have been happy with if she chose one person here. Especially the viewer. And it seems to have made Bill and Eric some sort of badass dynamic duo.
Later in the episode, Nan pays Bill a visit. Apparently, the American Vampire League and the Authority are none too happy with Bill and Eric. They want them dead for the Marnie situation. Nan's going to carry out the order, but tells them that she's going rogue, leaving the AVL and Authority and pretty much ordering them to come with her. And she uses Sookie as a pawn, saying that they look like puppy dogs around her, so they'll want to live.
Nan's pretty awful so Eric rushes to kill the three guards with her and Bill stabs her in the heart, killing her. "I'm not a f---ing puppy dog," Bill says.
I'm liking the new Bill/Eric team. Sookie should break up with both of them more often.
Jessica/Jason: So Jason decided to tell Hoyt about sleeping with Jessica. It had to happen. Hoyt pretty much reacted the way we all thought he would -- punches right in the mouth and a kick to the ribs. But this hurts more: "There's something inside you that's missing," Hoyt tells his former best friend.
Later, Jason is nursing his wounds when Jessica arrives dressed as the sexiest-ever Red Riding Hood (it's Halloween). "Invite me in," she says.
During some lengthy sex scenes, Jessica tells Jason that she isn't ready for a serious relationship. I began to roll my eyes, until the cute chat between Jason and Jessica.
I love this couple. Jessica compliments Jason's "hip bones" and says she's only leaving because the sex made her hungry and she doesn't want to drink Jason's blood because she isn't ready for that level of intimacy yet (file that under Post-Coital Talk that Only Happens Between Vampires and Humans).
"It's kind of like a hooker with kissing," Jason says.
"Maybe I can pretend to be a hooker. If you like that," Jessica says. Exploration!
But we got a big surprise when Jessica leaves: Rev. Newlin, a vampire now, arrives, peers at Jason naked and lets his fangs drop. "Trick or treat," he says. Um, that's one giant surprise cliffhanger.
Sam/Luna: Shockingly, Sam's was the most boring plot development this season. He buries Tommy, gives Sookie her job back and talks with Luna about having a fairytale ending. The only cliffhanger here is his last scene: a werewolf growling evily at him. Could it be one of Marcus' minions avenging his death?
Arlene/Terry: We're introduced to a new character: Patrick Devins (played by "Felicity's" Scott Foley) who is mysteriously in town, a former Marnie comrade of Terry's. Apparently, Terry saved his life. Mysterious!
Later, Arlene is visited by the ghost of her killer ex-fiance, Rene, who warns her not to trust Terry and who he's bringing into her life. OK, "True Blood," you officially have me curious about what you're cooking up for these two underutilized characters.
And then there's Tara: Will Tara Thornton ever be happy? Or live? Yup, the episode ended with the biggest cliffhanger of them all: Tara shot in the head by Debbie Pelt.
I expected Debbie to come back, but not Tara getting a bullet to the side of the head as she ran to push Sookie out of the way. Debbie's was one final death of the season, at the brutal hands of Sookie. Think that will affect Alcide's whole love confession thing?
The King returns: One other big reveal: Russell Edgington -- likely back! Thank god. Alcide is called to a parking lot construction site where a chunk of concrete is missing and a pair of chains is found. Yup, Russell -- one of the best characters ever on the show -- returns. Bill and Eric better join forces on this one again. The only question: Will it be the big battle for Season 5?
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM 'AND WHEN I DIE'
Pam, officially done with Sookie: "I'm so over Sookie and her precious fairy vagina. And her unbelievably stupid name. F--- Sookie!"
Nicest ghost ever: Jesus appears to Lafayette to tell him he's "cool with" how he died. Um, really?
Most cynical outlook on life: "People don't change. They just find new ways to lie." -- Alcide.
Best line of the night: Eric greets Nan and her oddly dressed guards: "Hi Nan. And gay Stormtroopers."
Best excuse for fang deployment: "Low blood sugar" -- Jessica
Couple I'd like to see happen: Andy and Holly. So she's a witch and he's a recovering V addict...it can work.
Best wink-wink pop culture joke: "Zombies are the new vampires, did you know that?" -- Arlene.
What did you think of the season finale? Post comments below.
Jordan Bartel is assistant editor at b. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter, @jordanbartel.